one hundred breaths by Stephanie Shields

One Hundred Breaths

My grateful thanks to James at Cynefin Road for a copy of one hundred breaths by Stephanie Shields in return for an honest review.

one hundred breaths is available for purchase here.

one hundred breaths

One Hundred Breaths

Stephanie Shields breathes life into her debut collection of one hundred, one hundred word stories, creating a book somewhere between poetry and a net cast to harvest the essence of life.


until next Spring

for it will come back

it won’t be this blossom

but it will be blossom…”

Bare, true, and as beautiful as it is heartbreaking, one hundred breaths isn’t so much a body of writing as a soul captured on paper.

one hundred breaths features hand-inked art by Ruby Lilith.

My Review of one hundred breaths

A beautifully illustrated collection of poems.

I’ve actually had this collection some time, but have been returning to it and rereading before writing my review because I enjoyed the poems so much. Before I review the poems themselves, I have to comment on the drawings by Ruby Lilith that illustrate one hundred breaths. They are so well positioned and perfectly linked to the individual poems that I found they enhanced my pleasure in reading this collection.

I loved the references in one hundred breaths to established writers such as Robert Frost in good fences make good neighbours or Emily Dickenson in antihope and actually, I think Stephanie Shields’ writing holds its own in comparison with great poets. Her imagery and lyrical quality is equally as good and I was frequently reminded of poems by Dylan Thomas amongst others, and of course EE Cummings because of the lack of upper case letters and the physical structure of pieces like birthdays. These poems may pay homage to and take inspiration from other writers but they are no pastiche. Stephanie Shields writes with a vibrancy and style that is all her own.

There’s an intensity to Stephanie Shields’ imagery and emotion that I found enormously affecting. The depth of loneliness in a simple task of washing up in one or the activities in friday night for example brought a lump to my throat. I think everyone should read connections as it is a true anthem for so many in today’s society. I was completely undone by dad as reading it coincided with the anniversary of my father’s death and it isn’t an exaggeration to say I found exploring one hundred breaths quite a cathartic activity. Stephanie Shields touches on many aspects of our modern lives from homelessness to love, despair to hope.

The use of the senses is woven in a perfect tapestry throughout one hundred breaths whether it is the scratch of a fingernail or the scent of a bonfire so that each piece is like a jewel of sensuous experience. Each poem is brilliantly structured. Some have a more physical appearance on the page and others look more conventional, but in each the techniques used enhance the meaning. The use of enjambement, repetition and the starkness of a single word mean that there is a truly affecting punch with each. Although I loved them all, I think the poem that most resonated with me was fuck this. The passion and anger, the determination and the references to our obsession with doing the right thing made me feel uplifted and empowered.

I know many readers are put off by poetry, but one hundred breaths is a superb collection. These poems are literary, emotional and beautiful but they are also real and accessible and I think any reader would find something here about which to say ‘Oh, yes!’

one hundred breaths is a stunning collection and I loved it.

About Stephanie Shields

Stephanie Shields grew up in a small village in Derbyshire. Her friends call her Veep. In her thirties she ran away to London to seek her fortune, where she started writing to try and make sense of the world.

You can follow Stephanie on Twitter @PrincessofVP.

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